Why Your Interview Questions Matter

The job interview: It's nerve wracking for many and feels like the last great hurdle in the job search. It is easy to feel sensitive and scrutinized with question after question coming at you from a team or individual who—when all is said and done—has control over whether or not you get the job. While numerous elements comprise a job-winning interview, one often-overlooked element is establishing a dialog with the hiring team. It is important to remember that you are interviewing the company, too!

When preparing for an interview, most candidates spend their time devising answers to the questions typically asked by employers, such as "Why did you leave your previous job?" or "Why are you the best candidate for this position?" Answers to these questions enable employers to identify your potential for success or uncover any red flags. Far too often, however, job seekers forget to prepare for their part of the interview process. It is important to prepare the questions you will ask during the interview as well since this is one of the many aspects of ensuring a strong interview experience.

Why Ask Questions?

Asking questions during an interview demonstrates your level of interest in the position and your level of enthusiasm for the opportunity and hiring company. It is not enough to let the employer assume you are interested in the position simply because you applied and showed up to the interview. It is critical to demonstrate your enthusiasm through your actions in addition to asking probing and discerning questions.

When asked by the interviewer if they have any questions, many will answer "no." This means that one simple yet effective way you can ensure you stand out is by asking informed and thoughtful questions about the company or the position. In today's job market, where competition is as fierce as ever, it is important to take advantage of every opportunity that sets you apart!

It is important to develop your list of questions ahead of time and bring them with you; this will help you remember to ask the questions, and it will demonstrate you are well prepared. At the end of the interview, you certainly will want to ask how you can follow up or what the next steps are in the hiring process; however, keep in mind that these are questions about the hiring process that demonstrate interest in landing a job rather than reinforcing your interest in the opportunity.

Preparing Questions to Ask

Both the quality and content of your questions are key to executing this strategy effectively. It is best to ask questions that display how much thought you have given the position, what amount of research you have done on the department or company, or your desire to make a difference. Also, the types of questions you ask will differ depending upon when, during the interview, you ask them.

During the main portion of the interview, a different type of question can be asked such as a response follow-up question. These can include finishing your responses with questions like "Did that answer your question?" or "Would you like me to explain that further?" When you use questions like these, you encourage a dialog and demonstrate that you are invested in aligning your strengths to the company's needs.

Forcing a follow-up question can be a mistake, though. For example, in answering a question about your experience collaborating with teams in multiple geographic locations, it would be natural to follow up with "Does this role involve working with others in various locations?" but asking "Where was your company founded?" would make less sense.

While there may not always be an opportunity based upon time constraints, as the interview wraps up, you will often have the chance to ask about topics that didn't come up in the interview itself. You might inquire about interaction and communication within the department or team, or how you'll receive feedback to ensure you are doing your best, or what are the core challenges in the role. These types of questions demonstrate to an employer that you have envisioned yourself in the role.

What Questions to Avoid

Steer clear of questions that are more about your personal preferences or non-professional activities. The interview stage of the hiring process is for exploring mutual interest and is typically not the time to discuss compensation, benefits, or potential job perks. For example, avoid asking when you can take vacation or if leaving early on Fridays is acceptable. Bottom line: be sure to thoroughly prepare, do your research, and develop questions that demonstrate interest but avoid risks.

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